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Should the "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine" be established to regulate and fund stem cell research, with the constitutional right to conduct such research, and with an oversight committee? Prohibits funding of human reproductive cloning research.
Official Summary and Arguments
This measure establishes "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine" to regulate and fund stem cell research, constitutional right to conduct such research, and oversight committee. Prohibits funding of human reproductive cloning research. Fiscal impact: State cost of about $6 billion over 30 years to pay off both the principal ($3 billion) and interest ($3 billion) on the bonds. State payments averaging about $200 million per year.
Official Voter Information Guide (pdf)
Campaign Finance Information
A YES vote on this measure means:
The state would establish a new state medical research institute and authorize the issuance of $3 billion in state general obligation bonds to provide funding for stem cell research and research facilities in California.
A NO vote on this measure means:
Funding for stem cell research in California would depend upon actions by the Legislature and Governor and other entities which provide research funding.
Arguments FOR Proposition 71
71 authorizes stem cell research to find new cures for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other diseases, saves millions of lives, and cuts health care costs by billions. And, 71 prohibits cloning to create babies. Join non-profit disease organizations, Nobel Prize scientists, doctors, and nurses. Vote YES on 71.
Arguments AGAINST Proposition 71
Adds $3 billion of bond debt to California's massive debt load. Money would fund huge, new bureaucracy to promote human embryo cloning. Few controls, no real accountability for how money is spent. Exempts new bureaucracy from aspects of "open meeting" laws. Opposed by women's groups, leading doctors, and medical ethicists.
For Proposition 71
Against Proposition 71
Selected Articles, Editorials, Opinions, Reports
gambling measures failing but voters favor funding stem cell research
and requiring businesses to pay for health coverage
voters lean toward stem cell measure
voters asked to defy stem cell limits
hope to rival global stem-cell leaders
spotlights stem-cell measure
Cell Initiative Attracts Backers
cell initiative leads by small margin
Last updated on September 30, 2004
For Proposition 71
"The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the
Commentary 1: "There is now a big gap between what may be one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in history and the research needed to get to new drugs and treatments..."
I am in favor of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative because it will support research that could lead to treatments and cures for many diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, HIV/Aids, MS, ALS, and spinal cord injuries. This initiative authorizes tax-free state bonds and will generate thousands of new jobs and potentially billions in new revenues from savings in health care costs and royalty payments.
As a scientist with over 20 years experience in biotechnology, I have seen this industry grow from its infancy in the early 80's to the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today. Biotechnology was originally built on the discovery of recombinant DNA technology which involves splicing genes together from different organisms. The safety and ethics of this technology were hotly debated at the time but scientists, lay people and religious leaders were able to reach a consensus and government sponsored research was allowed to proceed under guidelines issued by the NIH. As a result there are hundreds of FDA approved biotech drugs with successful treatments for many diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and MS. One can only imagine what might have happened if political blockades succeeded in slowing or banning recombinant DNA research.
Government sponsored research acts as a critical engine of discovery for the biotechnology industry. The industry in turn takes the research from the laboratory bench through the FDA approval process to the clinic where new drugs save lives. The research institutions benefit financially from licensing fees and royalties on biotech drug sales. An amazing breakthrough occurred in the late nineties when scientists for the first time were able to grow human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. After careful consideration of ethical issues, the NIH issued a set of rules that would have allowed this research to proceed under government oversight much the way it had for recombinant DNA. However, in 2001, Bush, under political pressure, imposed severe limitations on the research. With a single signature, a research engine for generating new cures for so many diseases was stopped dead in its tracks.
Thus, there is now a big gap between what may be one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in history and the research needed to get to new drugs and treatments. California can close the gap with proposition 71. Embryonic stem cell research will succeed because it stands on the shoulders of a successful biotech industry which began in California. New technologies like gene chips and interfering RNA are quickening the pace of research. Viewed from this standpoint, it is easy to see cures on the horizon as basic research and biotechnology continue hand in hand on a path of exponential growth. Proposition 71 is an opportunity for California to have its own medical equivalent of the Apollo Space program. It is an endeavor that all Californians will be proud of for many generations to come.
Commentary 2: "As a Unitarian Universalist I believe, passionately, in the separation of church and state..."
The politicalization of science is a disturbing trend in our society and no issue thrusts this schism more into the public mind than the current debate over stem cell research. Proposition 71 would enable California to attract scientists and compete in a growing medical research arena, yet the debate rages about the appropriateness of the state's involvement. Interestingly, the state is making investments in other areas such as energy and environmental research and initiating other health care research, but the political winds shift rapidly on this particular aspect of research. Suddenly there are voices saying that the state, with its current budget situation, can't afford to invest in this particular new frontier. Interesting, considering that the state still sees the value in investing in alternative energy research, epidemiological studies and other public interest initiatives to improve our quality of life.
Looking at this measure from as objective a position as a human voter can have, I can't help but be struck by the fact that the state has an opportunity to gain back a leadership position in an area of science that holds the promise of cures for so many different medical conditions. It truly is an investment that can pay dividends in potential academic and commercial success that will yield a tangible return through business growth. Yet it could be stopped before it can begin. To me, this is that scary slope of politics blurring with religion, the interjection of personal morality onto the public at large.
As a Unitarian Universalist I believe, passionately, in the separation of church and state. And today that separation is smaller and smaller. How we as individuals vote on this issue will come down to a matter of personal values, medical perspective, and life experience. Yet, isn't it scary that something this important is being debated, and ultimately determined, by a small percentage of the populace who can be bothered to get up off the couch and vote?
"Human history becomes more and more a race between
education and catastrophe."
Against Proposition 71
No commentary was received prior to our deadline. Please add your opinion and voice to the discussion below.
"You can judge your age by the amount of pain you
feel when you come in contact with a new idea."
SUPPORTERS SAY stem cell research could lead to improved treatment and cures for a variety of serious diseases and injuries. Successful research could potentially cut the state's healthcare costs and generate thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in state revenues. Proposition 71 prohibits funding for human cloning, reinforcing existing California law. Tax-free state bonds that are self-financing during the first 5 years would be authorized.
OPPONENTS SAY Proposition 71 would launch a costly state bureaucracy at a time when vital programs for health, education, and public safety are being cut. California voters have already approved billions of dollars in bond debt this year and opponents to Proposition 71 say that additional borrowing now is irresponsible. They say that California taxpayers are being used by vested interests to fund this very narrow field of research, which destroys human embryos. They maintain that adult and cord blood stem cells show greater potential for treating diseases. Because Proposition 71 is a constitutional amendment, neither the Governor nor the Legislature can exercise oversight on how the money is spent.
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